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This film accurately depicts life in modern Britain today.
Not the image of a flowing rolling countryside of middle class England which is often depicted in typical international films but one of an inner city "sink" estate - Elephant & Castle in London - with all of its associated problems.
I saw the film last night and it brought back all the memories I have of having lived in similar circumstances.
Michael Caine is excellent, this is probably one of his best films and I expect film nominations for his role.
The film gives a gritty but realistic view of the life most people live on the sink estates of Britain, all are there through no choice of their own, but some are aware of the conditions they are forced to live in.
I don't think we'll see the British government promoting this film as it portraits the country in a very bad light, though, if you are not from Britain and would like a taste of what some of us have to put up with I recommend you see this film.
Overall, a very well put together film which will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up at times.
Well done Michael and all of the team.
There are no Hollywood moments in this movie, and that's probably why I
love it! Possibly the best movie Michael Caine has ever been a part of.
The director does a truly awesome job of portraying his world with convincing and seedy squalour, almost leaving the viewer feeling soiled by the experience. His characters aren't just overtly filthy scum - they're real and believable scum.
Michael's character shines.
The are no violent rape/murder scenes where his family die at the hands of an outlaw biker gang, no terrorists holding his wife to ransom... just an old boy who has seen too many recent horrors to suffer the indignity of it any more.
From a drunken moment where his old military reflexes kick in with shocking consequence, to the understated twist of a finale, you can't help but feel for this man and see good cause for his actions. He's every bit the tired old serviceman whose plight tugs on every decent fibre until you find yourself snapping along with him.
He's no Rambo, no bullet-dodging arse-kicker on a rampage of revenge, and the action manages to paint well within the lines of plausibility. He ambles into the role with dignity - even if he's moving far too well for someone in his condition (emphazema doesn't just kick in after a ten foot jog - it's not asthma), and the impact of his losses is portrayed with a hopeless sadness that rather makes you want to hug the poor soul than scream "revenge".
I enjoyed this movie rather more than I expected to, and I would highly recommend it. It's neatly understated, with the right blend of pace and action. There's never any risk of failing to 'get it' - the director easily renders the various elements of the story in the light he chooses, making a few select points without hammering them home with a cricket bat; his Police are ineffectual bureaucrats, his protagonist is just an old man, and his scum... well, I feel like I've lived with them all my life.
Oh yeah, I have.
A truly entertaining and captivating film that's quintessentially British. You just *have* to watch it.
The pre main-credit sequence, shot to resemble mobile-phone footage,
had the desired effect: the sense of shock from the capacity audience
was palpable. The film then slows down to show the reality of Harry
Brown's life as a pensioner on a South London high-rise estate .
Showing his routine of walking to the hospital to visit his very ill
wife, having to walk a long way round to avoid confrontation with an
unseen group of youths who use an underpass as their base and his
meetings with his old friend and chess partner Lenny in the estate pub.
There aren't many other people walking about the estate, even in
daylight, out of fear of the gun-carrying teenage gangs.
Michael Caine's performance as Harry Brown is wonderful. His timing is spot-on. Credit to director Daniel Barber for allowing him space to breathe and not be hurried. In fact the overall pacing is excellent. There is good use of the soundtrack with the lack of intrusive music adding to the reality feel of the film. The night scenes are beautifully lit as well with a good balance between just enough to see what's going on and making the lighting realistic: the night scene in the pub with the lights out, for instance.
This film has been compared to 'Death Wish' and 'Gran Torino', but those films haven't got this film's bleak, realistic look at how life is in these areas. There always remains a sense of watching a film, of entertainment, of it being 'Hollywood'. This is a lot more down to earth. This film has more in common with Mike Leigh's TV drama 'Meantime' and with 'Gomorra'.
This isn't an easy 'first-date' film but it is a superior Brit film, one of the best for many years. I'm glad to see that it has got some marketing push behind it and has generated column inches talking about the subject of these 'no-go' areas and society in general.
Shocking and brilliant.
To start with, much credit must be given to the director and the cast
for this dramatic masterpiece. All the actors, be it the talented
Michael Caine or the younger members representing the gang, delivered
an excellent performance contributing to the disturbing realism this
film was able to achieve.
Combined with the perfect soundtrack, this film addresses the very contemporary issues that are violence and injustice in our supposedly civilised nations. Unlike Banlieue 13 which used the same kind of context to produce a superfluous action flick, or Gran Torino which confronts the issue from the perspective of racism, the realism of Harry Brown cannot but make us aware of our flawed individualistic society.
This film depicts the destructive environment in which the unfortunate many attempt to survive the anger, the fear and the injustice which inevitably feed the criminality plaguing our "evolved" world.
Not only is this film Oscar worthy, but most importantly, worth your while. If you enjoy good cinema and a good philosophical debate, then you will most definitively appreciate this genuine perspective on humanity!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Daniel Barbers disturbing vision of life on a South London Council
estate was filmed in and around the Elephant and castle where leading
man Michael Caine actually spent his formative years.
As the film's protagonist, the titular "Harry Brown" Caine plays a retired ex-marine who loses his wife to illness in the opening stage of the film. Clinging to his old moral values, disciplined and always wearing a tie, he is an example of the post war generation who are becoming fewer and fewer on the estate. His only enjoyment seems to be having a drink and a game of chess in his local pub with his friend Leonard. When Leonard reacts to the increasing violence on the estate by confronting the gang responsible, he is brutally murdered. Harry is informed by the police of this incident and it hurts him terribly, telling the police that they are powerless to do anything about it. Slowly and almost imperceptibly, Harry snaps and decides that he is going to sort it out the old fashioned way.
It is obvious that this film owes much to Michael Winners "Death Wish" (1974) but this story is so much more bleak and depressing. The young actors who play the gang members are so realistic that they are uncomfortable to watch. The story shows you failings in society at every level and a police division run by a superintendent who is content to put up token resistance and little else. Harry Brown does what most people would like to do deep down inside and take the fight to the criminals.
Michael Caine does a great job of getting the best out of a poor script that doesn't give enough dialogue to flesh out the characters properly. He makes the transition from pensioner to vigilante credibly and without becoming a totally different character. The limited sets add an effective touch of claustrophobia but I found the unrelenting depictions of sleaze and urban decay a bit tough to take. There are some very uncomfortable scenes of drug use and violence also, particularly the climactic shoot out in the pub. The supporting cast are competent enough with Ben Drew standing out in his role as the particularly nasty young scum bag "Noel" . Emily Mortimer as DI Frampton is fairly inert and has only one facial expression and a vague attitude throughout the whole film which puts you off feeling much for her character.
"Harry Brown" is not a pleasant film to watch, but it is certainly an experience which will pull on every one of your your emotions and is impossible to ignore.
The movie is set in The Elephant and Castle where I, as a 17 year old,
went to a strip joint in a well dodgy pub during a visit to London. If
I'd have seen this film beforehand I'd not have gone within a mile of
the area, never mind into its seedy interior.
Apparently Michael Caine is from "The Elephant" so this was probably quite a nostalgic road trip for him. In the movie he plays a vigilante gradually becoming more and more determined to avenge the brutal murder of his old mate (fast on the heels of his wife's death) at the hands of a bunch of local scum who terrorise the neighbourhood.
This is no ordinary vigilante movie and, although I haven't seen it, it must bear considerable comparison to Grand Torino where another fine actor in his latter years dominates a movie.
The casting is wonderful and the thugs that terrify the local community are entirely believable. But from start to finish this is Caine's movie. He plays his part with massive pathos. We feel deeply sorry for him as, first, his wife and, then, his only chum pass away leaving him quietly tormented and then incredibly angry as he learns that his mates death was mockingly filmed on a mobile phone to the accompaniment of raucous laughter.
The brutality of this movie is searing and really shocking at times. The riot scene is entirely believable, which is difficult to achieve on a low budget but certainly hits the spot. It plays an important central role in undermining the police and showing them off as the useless and uncaring force that director, Daniel Barber is keen to establish .
Two things make this movie a real stand out; Caine and the pacing of the action.
It starts brutally slowly and gradually winds up in pace and tension but never to Hollywood proportions. Don't forget that Caine is a pensioner! Amazingly it holds your belief throughout - not an inconsiderable achievement in a genre that tends to become overblown and ridiculous.
I expect Michael Caine will get a BAFTA nomination for this (at the very least). He might even win because his performance is stunning. I certainly hope so.
His best performance? Arguably.
A great film? Definitely.
It will be said by many that this is predictable and shallow on plot or
sub-plot and this would be true.
What this film does, however, is take Grand Torino and turn it into the film it should have been, could have been, ought to have been.
This is no Death Wish movie. It is the story of a man driven to the absolute end of his tether by events. You can feel the emotion in Caine's performance, something that I would say is lacking in many of his performances, and is therefore lifted. This is not Rambo or Commando, where a retired army dude ripped to the hilt dons his gear one last time. It is an old man doing what can be done and surprising himself, I think.
It is a dark film supported by a very well acted cast. The gang members feel real. One or two unanswered questions which you would expect but overall a great effort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Michael Caine portrays Harry Brown, an aged honest joe living in a city
of chaos, where juveniles are driven into drugs and crime. A new angle
of view to the 90s' popular crime genre since Tarantino's Reservoir
Dogs(1992) and Danny Boyle's Trainspotting(1996)... Essentially, this
movie suggests what can be done with streets when an old chap, who has
a medal-of-honor in naval forces, is left alone in his small apartment.
It offers an excellent concept through aged Harry Brown's point of
view, which is as good as the past summer's animation hit: Up.
It's obvious that the film draws huge benefit from its thematic values. First, Harry Brown's wife passes away due to geriatric causes. Then, his close friend and neighbour Leonard Atwoll gets killed by rounder juveniles at a night time. Whilst having a life-time crisis, police come to his door for investigation of Atwoll's murdering. Under a confusion of fear, anger and despair; all of a sudden he finds himself running after the vengeance of his friend Atwoll. Keeping track of the street gangs, he lays a trap to show up as a businessman trading guns with them. Since it's Michael Caine as we know him, he is an expert at fooling people with detracting their attention; so by courtesy of his timing skills and luck, he dishes those young criminals one by one.
Above all, Daniel Barber as a director turns this such a run-of-the-mill plot into a great suspense/thriller story. He tries to prove that Harry Brown's first murder was unwillingly just an accident but his last was a psychopathic mincing! Same idea here as the way Brown removing the traces behind him, starts with cleaning and collecting garbage, then turns out to setting fire and sabotaging locations. Besides, characterization is at its best. The criminals were so factual. As an important technical detail the sounds have been captured marvellously (with the echoes of fired bullets being heard behind windows), and this is what makes a crime movie makes sense.
Crime/suspense/thriller genre is getting better and better year after year. While we still see a lot of underdeveloped action and shallow crime movies all around, it's obvious that Harry Brown is noteworthy and a must see for the genre followers.
Watched this at a London preview screening
This is an enjoyable, and often tense vigilante film. But don't look for a radical plot line or unpredictable twists because this is simply a straight forward and predictable Death Wish style vigilante story. I'll give absolutely no credit to the screenplay writer for that.
But full marks to the director for turning up the high tensions to make this still an exciting film. Having lived in a council estate myself, I know how frightening some youngsters are and can be more terrifying than the recent flurry of zombie films.
However, this is Michael Caine's show and is a fine addition to the recent surge of old tough guys fighting back movies such as Gran Torino. Caine was brilliant as usual. He makes the most of a pitifully typical script. That is of a widower seeking violent vengeance on the youths who killed his friend. He played it subtle and his vigilante transition was done just right. He isn't turned into some unrealistic slick killing machine or a Rambo. He has typical elderly obstacles such as breathing problems, slow reflexes and old bones but some of his military skills give him a chance. There is a also a sub plot involving a female detective on his trail but it so underwritten, I just didn't care.
The actors playing the youths were very very convincing and help to root for our pensioner hero even more. So it is satisfying to see our legendary cockney actor clean up some really nasty bad guys.
Saw this film last night and wanted to applaud the British film-makers
for producing this great film.
It is a film which made me literally jump from my seat with excellent filmotography.I feel this is a film well worth watching and as mentioned in the trailers, it has to be the best British film of the year.
I do not think any more British releases will be able to compete with this film.
Michael Caine's acting is as usual superb and he has once again showed his professionalism in a different way.
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